Low costs for folding and unfolding the containers.
Folding and unfolding containers implies additional handling (manpower) and usually demands for ancillary equipment. Cost savings elsewhere in the logistical chain should compensate these additional costs. In other words, there is a trade-off between the cost savings of using foldable containers and the additional costs they bring about in the logistical chain. The net result, and therefore the success of foldable containers, will strongly depend on the time and costs involved with folding and unfolding. This influence of the folding costs on the cost competitiveness of foldable containers is further explained in Annex A with a quantitative example.
Low manufacturing costs (purchase price).
Because of the more complex construction of a foldable container the manufacturing costs will be higher than for a standard box. It is true that these additional costs can apparently earned back easily through substantial savings in empty transport. However, it is important to consider revenues too. The turnaround time of a standard box is much shorter than for a speciality, such as a foldable container. In other words, the revenues of a standard box might be greater than a foldable container due to higher container productivity. This can be explained by the comparative advantages of standard boxes in multi-trade operations. This means that the manufacturing costs of a foldable container should be in proportion to those of a standard container, and moreover, should be related to the life span and the costs of folding and unfolding.
Compatibility with existing equipment for intermodal transport.
In order to compete with standard containers, foldable containers should offer the same transport opportunities. To have the same system advantages as standard containers, the technical characteristics of foldable containers should conform to the norms and features of standard containers. These characteristics concern:
The external dimensions and gross weight in the unfolded state;
The strength and stiffness: in order to stack containers in unfolded state and to stack a bundle foldable containers;
Watertightness: to avoid cargo damage;
The presence of corner fittings at the bottom and top of the container;
The ability to merge folded containers to a bundle with external standard dimensions in order to achieve scale advantages in transport and transhipment;
The ability to lift a bundle of folded containers on top in order to have the same possibility for handling as the standard container;
Simple and effective consolidation of a bundle of folded containers in order to have a safe handling process.
Specific technical features.
In addition, there are several technical features, which are important for a technical efficient
functioning of the system:
Robustness for damages, particularly in terms of robustness to the folding and unfolding process. The larger the risk for damage, the more vulnerable the system is;
Avoiding loose parts to prevent theft and loss;
Use of high-quality joint- and hinge constructions. Moving parts bring about a higher risk for damage: corrosion, sand and frost are potential causes of damage, especially if containers are used world-wide;
Simple and safe bundling of a package of empties. It should be possible to bundle empty containers quickly and easily into a package that can be handled safely. Systems using safety catches to lock containers with each other may experience problems, which are typical for moving parts;
Simple folding and unfolding, assuming that a minimal level of know how is required to fold and unfold a container adequately. This reduces the risk of damage and simplifies repairs where needed. These conditions reduce the vulnerability of the system. A simple folding process is an important condition for the wider application of this container.
Finally, as regards maximum payload restrictions, the tare weight deviation of the standard container is important. Because of constructive requirements, a higher tare weight of the foldable container seems unavoidable. It is true that in transport the maximum volume is usually the limiting factor and not the maximum weight, but for heavy cargo predominantly 20 ft containers are used. Therefore, to have wider application possibilities for a 20 ft foldable container minimal concessions regarding the payload should be made. This supports a need to investigate the possibilities for lightweight materials in construction.